Charles points out that sometimes, when it comes to accessing the attic space, we all get screwed! OK, that's not exactly his point, but it kind of is his point. In any case, it's a fun read as usual.
“Entering the Attic”
I hate it when there are so frigging many screws in the attic access cover!
All six screws were three inches long, with mangled slots from previous people dealing with the cover. I placed my screw driver at an angle on the groove of one of the screws and then whacked the screw driver to knock the paint out of the groove to help the screw driver fit better. I turned the screws out just far enough to get my vise-grips on the heads and then turned the screws the rest of the way out with the vice-grips.
With the cover finally out of the way----with only minimal damage to the where the cover had been painted in place 20 times----I was able to peer into the opening. Waving the flashlight, I wound up enough cobwebs to make a place for my head to look around. The air smelled the way old attics smell----an odd concoction of dust, wood, rodents and insects----marinated by time and extreme temperatures. The dust and cobwebs covered an assortment of items---- perhaps left by the first occupants of the home. Other items that I could see were more mid-20th Century----but nothing seemed newer than that. I was obviously the first person to wrestle with those old screws in a very long time.
There was a discolored lamp shade with beaded frilly lace around the bottom. Most of the beads were missing----perhaps taken away by rodents. There were shoe boxes, books and other items with the corners chewed off, as well as feces and nesting materials scattered about.
Someone’s stash of soft core pulp fiction was stacked in one corner.
There was a scary looking bed pan and a red top.
All of this “stuff” was primarily located near the opening and it was apparent that there was a larger attic space to the North of the opening that I would have to figure out a way to get into. There were two round-top abused leather steamer trunks that were in the way of getting to the rest of the attic. Moving them out of the attic and into the room would create enough space to crawl to this area. These old belongings are rich with nostalgia. It is fun to wonder what possible stories they might contain----even though empty of physical items now. I could add quite a chapter to the nostalgia if I were to actually “use” the bed pan----but let’s not go there.
With the lanyard of my camera short-sheeted between my teeth, to keep my camera from dragging on the floor, I crawled along the path made by the steamer trunks. The attic started to get taller----to the point that as long as I stayed to the left side, I could actually stand up. There was sub-flooring along this edge that extended under the wall that was the outside wall of the adjacent rooms. Following this ledge around the wall, I viewed the extent of the attic, out to the roof overhang, with my flashlight. Cob-webs glistened back. I knew that all my photographs would be full of “ghosts” as the flash bounced off the dust particles in the air. There was not much to see really. There was exposed lath and plaster----demonstrating the lack of insulation. There was the suspected knob & tube wiring----no surprise in a 1901 house that had not seen any improvements to speak of. There were walnut shells consistent with rodents being in the attic and consistent with the ancient walnut tree in the neighbor’s yard. I shut my flashlight off and daylight twinkled at several locations along the eaves---likely points of entry for the rodents.
There was a gable vent with the screening all rusted away and the louvers were half covered by a very large and pendulous yellow jackets nest----hopefully abandoned.
As I flashed my light toward what had to be the end of the attic I could make out a second access door. At first I thought it was perhaps another access to the attic from another room. In my head I could not create a shape of the house that would allow this access to lead to anywhere “inside” the house. Getting closer I could see that this access was from the attic and not from the other side----- the cover had screws on the attic side. Well that is damn odd I thought. The next question would be whether I could get the screws out with my pocket knife or whether I would have to go back out and get my real screw driver----and the vice-grips. The latter was the case. As I headed back for my tools I cursed myself for being curious. “Curious” is more accurate than what most people perceive as me being “thorough.”
Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector
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PS, for those of you that are new to my blog (or for some other "unexplained" reason have never noticed)all pictures and smiley-face inserts (emoticons) (when I use them) have messages that show up when you point at them with your cursor.
My WORDLESS WEDNESDAY pictures.